LIHU‘E — At her 100th birthday celebration, someone asked the witty, fun-loving Anna Scott Sloggett her secret to such a long life.
“She said, ‘I did what I want,’” son David P. Scott recalled.
While that included smoking until age 80 and enjoying a stiff cocktail now and then, Sloggett was no stranger to acts of selfless generosity and kindness.
Jocelyn Fujii, an author and one of her third grade students at Kapa‘a Elementary, remembers Sloggett’s three main rules, or mottos, which she lived by each and every day until her death Jan. 2 at age 106: Do something kind for someone, keep busy and stay interested in others.
“She was a very caring, warm woman,” Scott said. “She would get up every day and try to do something for someone else.”
The granddaughter of Kaua‘i’s last governor, William Hyde Price, Sloggett was born in Lihu‘e in 1906 after the San Francisco earthquake drove her mother, Mary Scott, to Kaua‘i. Sloggett graduated from Kaua‘i High School in 1924 and later attended Mills College in Oakland and San Francisco State College. After, she returned to Hawai‘i, where she taught for more than 35 years, mostly at Kapa‘a Elementary and Elsie Wilcox School.
First and foremost, Scott said his mother “was an educator.”
Fujii described Sloggett as her “favorite teacher,” an “icon” and an “extraordinary” woman.
“She was the first teacher on the island to take students on field trips,” Fujii said. “She really gave us a view of the world that was way beyond the classroom. She motivated us because she made it fun.”
Sloggett took students on adventures to plantations, waterfalls, fire stations and the post office, always looking for learning environments outside the classroom. She was known to have given her lunch to students who forgot their own and often invited students to her home for dinner.
“If we did so many book reports we’d get to go to her house and meet her canary (named Elvis),” Fujii said.
Sloggett could have been a teacher anywhere, but she chose the Islands.
“She wanted to come back and teach in public schools because she liked the diversity,” Fujii said. “She just gave her life to public school students.”
Sloggett never dwelled on what a student couldn’t do, only what they could.
“We were so lucky to have this kind of influence,” Fujii said.
“I cannot say enough about her students,” said Kathy Richardson, a close friend and relative. “She cared for every single one of them. She would do anything for them.”
In addition to her career as an educator, Sloggett will undoubtedly be remembered for her keen sense of humor.
“That’s one of the things I enjoyed most about her,” Arnold Meister said. “Her dry wit.”
If you asked her what grade she taught, Sloggett would say the “turd grade,” as her students called it, unable to pronounce “third.”
For her 97th birthday, Richardson organized a gathering of family and friends to take Sloggett tubing through the irrigation canals behind Hanama‘ulu. Along the way, she said Sloggett casually produced a small water pistol from her bosom and started squirting everyone.
“She had a rascal side to her,” Richardson said. “When she’d get caught cheating at rummy she’d say, ‘Why are you so mean to me?’”
Even in old age, Sloggett remained active and young at heart. In addition to her students and family, golf was her passion and she continued playing until 2007. In fact, there is a plaque on the first tee of the Wailua Golf Course commemorating her 100th birthday.
“Her spirit was so alive and always moving forward,” Mary Bea Porter-King, a close friend and relative, said. “She was always looking at the cup half full.”
When asked to describe Sloggett’s personality, Porter-King said just thinking about her friend made her smile.
“She really just looked at the positive side of everything,” she said. “I don’t know that I ever heard her say anything bad about anyone.”
All we did was laugh, play games and play golf, Porter-King remembered.
Sloggett remained actively involved in the Kaua‘i community until the end. And the community took notice.
In 2003, the Women in Theatre group created the Anna Sloggett Award, given to an individual who has gone above and beyond supporting the arts on Kaua‘i. Winners of the award include Carol Yotsuda, Delia Valentin, Laurel Petterson, Karen Firl and her son, David Scott. In 2002, the Kaua‘i Museum honored Sloggett as a Living Treasure.
Sloggett’s lifelong passion for students and education will carry on through two scholarships established in her name at Kaua‘i Community College — one for students in early childhood education and the other for students in elementary education.
Porter-King said the main thing Sloggett will leave behind is a message that “If you think you can, you can!”
“And she did,” Porter-King said. “I don’t know that she’ll ever be gone. She’ll always be at the first tee at Wailua (Golf Course) … I always kind of talk to her as I leave the first tee.”
Sloggett’s inspiration, friendship, generosity and sense of humor will live on through the people she touched throughout her long life.
“You just never meet someone like that,” Fujii said. “She’s someone that no one will ever forget.”
“We felt like she epitomized what we want to be when we grow up,” said Roberta Cable, president of Women in Theatre. “Anna was really incredible, resilient like nobody else. She was really special.”
“(Sloggett) just had this ability to make people feel good,” Richardson added.
A celebration of Anna Sloggett’s life will be held today at 4 p.m. at the Lihu‘e Cemetery. Donations in her memory may be made to the Anna S. Sloggett Endowed Scholarship in Elementary Education or the Anna S. Sloggett Endowed Scholarship in Early Childhood Education at the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, 2444 Dole Street, Bachman Hall 105, Honolulu, HI 96828.
• Chris D’Angelo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 241) or lifestyle@ thegardenisland.com.